Philly "truck war" heats up

| 5/13/2002

Philadelphia authorities are doing battle with truck violators in the name of safety. Truckers are threatening a federal civil-rights lawsuit citing "abusive treatment and arbitrarily going after trucks."

A nine-member truck force roams the city with the power to stop any truck for inspection, without cause, according to a published report. If the tickets they issue exceed $250, the truck is seized.

Since April 2001, more than 1,600 trucks have been pulled off Philadelphia roads and seized for safety violations. But, Gail Toth, director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, told Land Line trucks are being seized for reasons other than safety.

"These are not safety issues, it deals with money," says Toth. "On Tuesday they towed a guy's truck that was missing the IFTA sticker. Apparently, it simply fell off somewhere. That's not a safety violation."

Toth is asking the truck brigade to lighten up and let truckers make minor repairs at roadside instead of having the trucks towed, sometimes costing truckers hundreds of dollars including fines. The seizures are "an abuse of power," as well as "un-American and unconstitutional."

Toth says the association will file a federal suit against the city, claiming the punishment-first policy violates truckers' civil rights, if they don't change their procedures. "They are putting guys out of business," says Toth, representing 1,000 Jersey truckers. "They are impeding interstate commerce."
--Keith Goble